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Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Four: The Four Forces of Purification, Part One

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The following reading is taken from the Entry Point for Children of the Victorious Buddhas (rGyal-sras ‘jug-ngogs), a commentary by Gyaltsab Je Darma Rinchen (1364-1432) on the book called Guide to the Bodhisattva’ Way of Life (Byang-chubsems-dpa’i spyod-pa la ‘jug-pa) by Master Shantideva (c. 700 AD).


The fourth section here concerns purifying yourself of bad deeds, through using all four of the forces together. We begin with a general presentation.

You should from the very beginning make efforts to see that you are not sullied by performing any harmful actions.

Despite your efforts, however, such an action may occur, due to some instance of carelessness, an attack of mental afflictions, or the like. It would be a mistake in such a case to simply ignore the bad deed; you should rather exert yourself in the various methods of repairing the damage.

These methods were taught by our compassionate Teacher.


Instances in which you have committed some transgression of your vows, at whichever level of vows you may have, should be repaired according to the methods prescribed for those particular vows.

For repairing the damage caused by other kinds of bad deeds you should utilize the four powers. As the Sutra on the Four Practices states,


If, oh Loving One, some great bodhisattva has succeeded in the four practices, then even those bad deeds which have been both committed and collected can be overcome.

What are the four practices? They are as follows: the activity of destruction; the activity of applying the antidote; the force of restraining from the particular bad deed; and the force of the foundation.


The expression “committed and collected” refers to actions whose karmic results are “certain to be experienced.”

If even these types of karmic results can be overcome by the four practices, then there is no need to mention those which are not certain to be experienced.

The first of these four forces involves feeling strong regret over having committed some negative action.

In order to achieve this level of regret, you must contemplate carefully the way in which negative actions trigger three different karmic results.

The second force, as described in the Compendium of Trainings, consists of performing practices such as studying the profound scriptures of the canon, meditating on emptiness, reciting secret words, preparing physical representations of the holy bodies of enlightened beings, making offerings, and reciting the names of high beings.


The third force is to restrain yourself perfectly from ever committing these negative actions again in the future.

The fourth consists of meditating upon the wish for enlightenment, and similar practices. Here it is the first force which is described in great detail.

The points to be considered are the time at which the bad deeds may have been committed, the cause, the mode of expression, the undertaking of the deed, its object, and how the deed was committed.

Next we present some detail on each of the four: the force of the activity of destruction; the force of the foundation; the force of the activity of applying the antidote; and the force of restraining from the particular bad deed.


THE FORCE OF THE ACTIVITY OF DESTRUCTION

We will explain the first force in four steps: an explanation of the process of regret, which you reach by examining the way in which you have committed the negative deed; the practice of developing regret out of fear that you may die while you still possess the negative deed, along with an explanation of how to go for refuge;

the practice of developing regret by considering with special attention the way in which you have committed a negative deed which is meaningless; and the practice of learning to fear negative deeds.


The first of these steps has four parts of its own: requesting the one to whom you are going to reveal your negative action to attend to your confession; a method for a general purification of negative actions you have committed, according to time, cause, type, or other detail;

a method for the purification of especially powerful negative actions which have been committed towards some special object; and learning to perform purification due to regret inspired by having considered carefully the unwanted karmic results that the action will bring you.


I make supplication, with my palms joined at my breast,

To the totally enlightened beings, and bodhisattvas,

Who reside in every direction of the world:


To those beings who possess great compassion.

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Here is the first. I make supplication, with my palms joined at my breast, to the totally enlightened beings, and bodhisattvas who reside in every direction of the world: to those beings who possess great compassion. I request them to hear my confession, which I make out of regret for the negative deeds I have committed.



In the cycle of life without beginning,

In both this and my other lives,

I committed bad deeds without understanding

And encouraged others to commit them;

Overcome by my total failure to understand, I took joy.

Now I see my mistakes, as many as I may have made,

And I confess them to the Protectors

From the bottom of my heart.


Here is the second point. During all the time that I have circled around in the cycle of life, for time without beginning, in both this and my other lives, I have committed bad deeds myself.

I have as well encouraged others to commit them. And because of the fact that I was overcome by my total failure to understand the principles of deeds and their consequences, I took joy in the negative actions committed by others. I see now that all of my mistakes, as many as I may have made, truly are mistakes, and with regret that comes from the bottom of my heart I confess these mistakes to the Protectors—I conceal nothing, I hide nothing.


I confess whatever harm I may ever have done towards

The Three Jewels, my parents, and other high objects

With my actions, my speech, and my thoughts

Caused by the mental afflictions.


Here is the third point. The person who was mistaken—that is, I myself—confess whatever harm I may ever have done towards the Three Jewels, or towards my parents, and towards any other such high object of merit;

I confess all these actions, which were caused by the mental afflictions known as the three poisons, and which were expressed with either my bodily actions, my speech, and my thoughts.

I am a person full of negative actions;

I have been infected by a great number of bad deeds.

I confess to every one of the Guides

All the dreadful negative deeds I’ve done.


Next is the fourth point. I am a person full of negative actions;

I have been infected by a great number of bad deeds, by emotions such as attachment, which will act as causes that will bring me the karmic result of a birth in the hells or the like. All the negative deeds that I have done, actions like killing and the like, are going to create for me immense suffering; they are therefore dreadful, and I confess them to every one of the Guides.


I could be finished off first, before

I can clean myself of my negative deeds.

And so I beg you protect me, speedily,

In any way I’ll be certainly freed.


Next is the part about developing regret out of fear that you may die while you still possess the negative deed, and so on.

Suppose that I die while I still possess the negative deed: suppose I was unable to clean myself of the deed immediately after committing it, and failed to clean it from my mind.

The Lord of Death then could come and I could be finished off first, and I would have to take a birth in one of the lower realms.

And so I must avail myself of any way possible in which I will certainly be freed from my negative actions, and that I do so speedily; and so I beg you protect me, by helping me to do so.

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This Lord of Death cannot be trusted,

He waits for no one, finished or not.

He takes all sorts suddenly, those sick and well,

So feel not certain about your life.


“What kind of protection,” one may ask, “is it that we need, so quickly, while we have yet to die, and have still not purified ourselves of our bad deeds?”

This Lord of Death cannot be trusted, even for a single moment of time, and he waits for no one: he has absolutely no interest in whether you have finished purifying yourself of your negative actions or not.


His coming in no way depends upon whether what you have hoped to do is done or not.

All sorts of people die suddenly, before their life has reached its normal length, and whether they have gone through some sickness or whether they are well.

Therefore you should feel no certainty about your life, no assurance even that you will not die this very day. And since this fact that you can feel no certainty is true, you should quickly purify yourself of your negative actions.

Next is the point about meaningless misdeeds. Here first we cover the kind of regret you have about negative actions you have committed for the sake of your relatives, or for the sake of your body or possessions or anything of the like, all because you failed to realize how they were nothing you could ever depend upon. After that will come a metaphor to show how, at the moment of death, none of these is anything more than a memory.

Then we will cover the kind of regret you reach about having committed these kinds of negative actions once you have seen directly as well how none of the things for whom you committed the actions were in any way something you could depend upon.

And then finally we will discuss the regret that you develop over the negative deeds you committed because you failed to realize that there was no certainty at all when you would die.


I’ll have to give up it all and travel,

But I’ve failed to realize this fact,

And so I’ve committed an entire variety

Of bad deeds for friends and enemies.


Here is the first of the four points. I will have to give up it all—my relatives, and all my possessions and the rest, and even the flesh and blood and such which came with me when I was born—and travel on to the life beyond, alone, by myself.

But I have failed to realize this fact, and so I have committed an entire variety of bad deeds for the sake of protecting my friends and defeating my enemies.

This is one reason why I should now feel regret.


The enemies cease to exist,

The friends too cease to exist,

I myself cease to exist as well;

And everything else ceases too.


And it was wrong to commit bad deeds for these reasons, because shortly afterwards the enemies cease to exist, and the friends to cease to exist, and I myself cease to exist as well. Just so everything else, the relatives and the possessions and so on, ceases too.

Nothing is in the least bit dependable, and so I should also feel regret at having committed negative actions due to any attachment or dislike for any of them.


All the objects you use are the same

As something experienced during a dream.

They are soon nothing but some memory;

All things that have passed are no longer here.


Think of some minor pleasure that you might experience during a dream.

When you wake up, the pleasure is no longer anything but a memory. All the objects that you might deceive yourself into thinking are pleasant in this life, and which you use, are the same.

When you die they are soon nothing but some memory. Therefore you should resolve, from this moment on, and time and time again, that you will only practice the Dharma.

All those things that have passed are no longer here, and so they become nothing more than a memory.

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Even here in the present moment,


In the time that we have lived,

Many friends and enemies have slipped to the past.

But all the negative that we committed

For their sakes lies before us still.


Even here in the present moment, in the time that we have lived, we have seen many who were our friends, and many who were our enemies, slip into the past.

But whatever dreadful consequences there may be from all the negative that we committed for their sakes still lies before us. It’s like the lines that say,


Since they can never take upon themselves

Any share of the suffering,

What use then are the best of friends,

Who only serve to hinder us?

Thus we must feel, over and over again, deep regret at having committed bad deeds for their sakes.

As I live in this condition, suddenly,

Without my even realizing it,

I commit a great number of different bad deeds,

Due to my ignorance, to liking and disliking.

In just a single instant of time as I live in this condition, of having no certainty when it is that I will die—that is to say, suddenly, without my even realizing it, I commit a great number of different bad deeds, due to my ignorance, my tendency of liking some things, and disliking other things.

These now will take me to a birth in the lower realms.

I must contemplate thus the facts of how my death is certain, and how the time that I will die is not certain at all, and how when I die there is nothing at all that can help me except the Dharma. I must think carefully too of all the problems of these lower realms.

I must feel, and feel again and again, deep regret then at having committed these negative deeds.

This brings us to the fourth step in the explanation of the first of the forces: the practice of learning to fear negative deeds. Here too there are four parts.

The first is learning to feel fear about the certainty of death, which is a fact because you cannot add any time onto your life, which is melting away constantly, without a moment’s hesitation; and to feel fear that you might die while you still possess negative deeds.

The second is thinking about how, if you fail to purify yourself of the power of negative actions, you will be forced even in this very life to experience suffering.

The third is a description of the reason why great fear will come, and the fourth a description of how, in your future life, you will be tormented by pain.


Day and night, without hesitating

This life is forever dropping,

There is no extra life set aside

That is ever going to come to you.

How then could it ever happen

That someone like me wouldn’t die?


Here is the first of the four. No matter which of the three kinds of activities you may be engaged in—going somewhere, sitting somewhere, or sleeping; and during all the day and all the night, without hesitating even for a moment, this life is forever “dropping,” which is to say, decreasing.

There is no extra life set aside somewhere that is ever going to come to you later.

How then, for what reason, could it ever happen that someone like me would not certainly die?

It is definite that I will die, and there is no certainty when I will die.

Therefore I must make great efforts to purify myself of all my negative actions.

If one reads the Tibetan word for “drop” in this verse with an alternate spelling, it becomes the word for “mark,” and the section could then be read as “life marked by days and nights.”


Our discussion of the suffering in this life has itself three sections, which are all based on what would happen if you failed to purify yourself of negative actions. These are descriptions of how people like your family and friends have no ability to protect you; how you will have to fear if you have not been able to perform any good deeds; and how you will be tormented by regret.

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You may be lying down on your bed

Surrounded by your friends and family,

But it’s only you, and you alone,

Who will have to undergo the pain.

When Lord Death’s messengers take hold of you.

What’s the use of your family,

And what use are your friends?


Here is the first. If you fail to perform good deeds, then when you die you experience the sufferings caused by the sensations of having life stop; you may be lying down on your bed surrounded by your friends and family, people who love you with their whole hearts, but it is only you, and you alone, who will have to undergo the pain.

And the problem is not only that there is no one there who can stop the terror—the messengers of the Lord of Death, in hideous forms, take hold of you. What is the use of your family at this point? And of what use are friends? Only the Dharma can protect you at that moment.


At that moment protection is good deeds alone,

Though I failed to follow them during my life.


Here is the second point.

At the moment of death, the highest of all protection is good deeds, and good deeds alone: practices such as going for refuge, and maintaining an ethical way of life.

I failed though during my life to follow these practices.

These lines are describing another kind of regret, the kind you feel about having failed to do good deeds during your life.


Oh Protectors, I’ve been careless, and wasn’t aware

I’d be faced with terrors like this;

And so I accomplished many negative deeds,

All for the sake of this fleeting life.

Here is the third point.

Here you are calling out to the sources of protection, with the words, “Oh Protectors.”

I have been careless, I was not aware, I did not know, that I would be faced like this with the terrors of the lower realms.

And so I accomplished many negative deeds, all for the sake of people such as my relatives of this life, this life which is so fleeting, so impermanent.


There are people who are about

To have one of their limbs cut off;

And on the day they’re dragged away

To the place, they are seized with terror.

Their whole appearance from before is transformed:

Their mouths go dry, eyes bulge, and the rest.

Suppose then that you are taken hold of

By the messengers of the Lord of Death,

By those monstrous and terrifying creatures,

And are stricken by that great fear, the unique pain.

If one can go through the change before

Then what need then is there ever to speak

Of this most desperate of all situations?


This brings us to our description of the reason why great fear will come.

There are kinds of people who are about to undergo some punishment where they will have one of their limbs cut off; on the day that the guards drag them away to the place where the sentence is to be carried out, they are seized with terror.

Their whole appearance is transformed from what it was before: their mouths go dry from the fear, their faces go pale, their eyes bulge from their sockets, and the rest.

Suppose now that you are taken hold of by the messengers of the Lord of Death, by monstrous and terrifying creatures from another realm altogether. And suppose as well that you are stricken by that great fear, by the unique pain of death itself.

If people who are about to have nothing more than a limb cut off go through the change we just spoke of before, then what need is there ever to speak of the incredible terror that you will, in this most desperate of all situations, come to experience?

This is another reason why you should feel regret for the wrong things you have done.

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Where is there now anyone who can

Save me completely from this horror?

Your face takes on a look of terror,

Your eyes open wide with panic,

And you turn in every direction

To look for someone who can help.

You realize that there is no one to protect you,

No one in any direction at all,

And the darkness then comes and envelops you.

In this place, there is no one at all who can protect you;

At that moment nothing you can do for yourself.

Here now is the fourth part: the description of how, in your future life, you will be tormented by pain. And once you have taken your birth in the hells, and you see the hellguards coming for you, then will you be overcome with fear, and scream out, “Ah! Where is there now anyone who can save me completely from this horror?”

Your face takes on a look of terror, your eyes open wide with panic, and you turn in every direction to look for someone who can help.

You can look, but then you realize that there is no one to protect you, no one in any direction at all, and then the darkness comes and envelops you.

Thus it is that you must, from this very moment, take refuge in the Three Jewels.

Once you are in this place, in the hells, there is no one at all who can protect you from the terrors of the hells, there is at that moment absolutely nothing that you can do for yourself. And so you should, right now, make efforts in those practices which can save you from the terror later.

THE FORCE OF THE FOUNDATION

With this we have reached our explanation of the second the four forces, which is the force of the foundation.

We proceed in three steps: instructions on seeking refuge in the Three Jewels from this very moment;

seeking help in the sons and daughters of the Victorious, those who possess the power of prayers; and carrying out their wishes, once you have taken refuge in them.


The Victorious Buddhas, the Saviors of all living kind,

Exert themselves in order to protect beings.

Thus it is that you should take refuge today itself,

In those of great power, who remove every kind of fear.

Here is the first. Once you have taken birth in the lower realms, you can seek for some kind of protection, but you will find none.

The Victorious Buddhas, the Saviors of all living kind, exert themselves in advance, in order to protect every sentient being, and they possess a consummate ability to achieve this protection.

Thus it is that you should take refuge quickly, today itself, in those of great power, who have the ability to remove every kind of fear.

You should as well take total refuge

In the Dharma which they have grasped completely,

The Dharma which eliminates this cycle’s every fear,

As well as in the assembly of bodhisattvas.

You should as well take total refuge in the Dharma which they, the Victorious Buddhas, have grasped completely, the Dharma jewel which, when you rely on it properly, eliminates every fear in this cycle of life.

And you should do so too with the assembly of bodhisattvas who have been able to reach the state of a realized being.

You should accept them as companions in helping you to practice the path.


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And so I offer myself to the Excellent One.

I, myself, offer this body of mine to Gentle Voice.

I call out in a voice from a desperate situation,

I cry out to the savior Loving Eyes,

The one who lives in compassion, who is free of all error;

And I beg you to protect me,

A person who had committed great bad deeds.

I seek protection in all those saviors

Whose hearts are filled with great compassion:

I cry out, from my heart to the realized pair

Named “Essence of Space” and “Essence of Earth.”

I take refuge as well in the One with the Diamond;

When those full of hate, such as the messengers of death,

Catch sight of him, they’re filled with fear,

And forced to flee in every direction.

I feel absolute terror over the fears of the lower realms, and so I offer myself to the Excellent One (Samantabadra), that son of the Victors who possesses the power of prayers, and beg him to protect me from these fears.

I myself—that is, without the urging of anyone else at all—offer this body of mine as well to Gentle Voice (Manjushri), with thoughts of great faith.

And I call out in the voice from a desperate and frightening situation, I cry out, to that one who accomplishes the aims of others in two ways—with perfect spontaneity and in an uninterrupted flow:

to the one who lives in compassion, who is free of all error, to the savior—whose name is [[Loving [Eyes]] (Avalokiteshvara).

And how is it that I cry out? In the words, “I beg you to protect me, a person who has committed great bad deeds.”

Just so do I seek protection in all those saviors whose hearts are filled with great compassion: those realized bodhisattvas such as the pair named “Essence of Space” (Akashagarba) and “Essence of Earth” (Kshitigarba), and so too Loving One (Maitreya), and the Ender of Obstacles (Nivarana Vishkambi).

“I cry out, from my heart, so please, protect me.” And finally I take refuge in the One with the Diamond, in the Holder of the Diamond (Vajrapani).

When those full of hate living beings—when those such as the messengers of death or the hellguards—catch sight of him, they are filled with fear, and are forced to flee in every direction.

I have, up till now, acted against your wishes:

Now though I have seen the great terrors

And so I take refuge in you, and beg you

To remove my fears with all speed.

I have, up till now, acted against your wishes: I have committed negative actions, and I have failed to engage in positive actions.

Now though I have seen the great terrors of the limitless cycle of life, and the lower realms.

And so I take refuge, and commit myself to carrying out your every wish concerning those things which I should take up, and those things which I should give up. I beg you to remove my fears with all speed.

See Also

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